Russian Arms Control Researcher Gets 15 Years
Igor Sutyagin is among the most recent victims in a series of espionage prosecutions of environmentalists, journalists, and scientists by the Russian government. Last April, Sutyagin was convicted and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in prison for spying for the United States. On August 17, the Russian Supreme Court upheld the conviction on appeal.
A researcher with Russia's USA-Canada Institute, Sutyagin was originally arrested nearly five years ago while doing legal freelance arms control research into public documents for a British company. Though Sutyagin never had clearance to access secret documents, prosecutors charged that the contractor, Alternative Futures, was a CIA front group, and that the researcher had passed along secret information about nuclear submarines and missile warning systems.
Sutyagin endured years behind bars as his trial was repeatedly delayed. Knowing his own innocence and believing that justice would triumph in a jury trial, Sutyagin and his family did not seek public support. For the final postponement, the appointed judge was replaced by another with a history of espionage convictions, who proceeded to pick his own new jury. Sutyagin's defense team angrily charged that the new jury included agents of the FSB, Russia's successor to the Soviet KGB, and that the judge further manipulated proceedings by instructing the jury to consider the wrong questions.
To underscore the message of Sutyagin's prosecution and sentence, an FSB colonel, who asked his name not be used, told Bellona Web, a Norwegian environmental website, "This should serve as warning to scientists, ecological organizations, journalists and others who often exchange information with foreigners. There has been far too much of that over the past few years and that will change,"
Now, Sutyagin has the support of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, among other groups. An appeal to the Presidium of the Supreme Court remains, and then the case will be taken before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg.
In September, Sutyagin was transferred to the maximum security prison colony M-222 in the Komi Republic.
Letters of support should be sent to Igor Sutyagin, c/o Irina Manannikova, Zvezdnaya, d. 1A, kv. 82, Obninsk, Kaluga region 249039, Russia.